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Wolfe loco for life as engineer

March 2, 2012

Photo submitted - St. Marys native Don Wolfe, shown here in Colorado, enjoys his job working as a lead systems engineer designing locomotives for General Electric.

St. Marys native Don Wolfe said his interest in the engineering profession was sparked by repairing equipment on his family's Rosely Road farm. Now living in Erie, Wolfe is a lead systems engineer designing locomotives for General Electric.
"I'm designing locomotives. It's fun. Ever since I was a little kid, one of the things that's always interested me is locomotives. You get to design one very large and powerful equipment that is very complex in itself," Wolfe said.
Wolfe is in charge of coordinating all subsystems interactions from their hardware and software and incorporating the designs into the locomotive package. He primarily works with North American freight locomotives. He said designing locomotives is all about "bigger, better, more power."
"The locomotives are designed to haul loads across the country. This takes thousands of trucks off the road and is more fuel-efficient for the payload," Wolfe said. "Clients want to pull more freight, more payload, with better fuel efficiency. So we look at how to optimize tractive effort while increasing fuel efficiency.
"The other thing that we do is we manage and maintain them [locomotives] for a number of years. We have sites all over the world with technical directors that help people perform maintenance. What we do is we develop new products for the older locomotives and retrofit them with new designs and new technology."
Wolfe is a 1999 graduate of Elk County Christian High School, where he played football, baseball, and tennis, and a 2004 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Behrend campus, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He also received a masters of business administration from Penn State Behrend. He said while receiving his education, he was influenced in particular by two mentors at the high school level.
"You've got (math teacher) Greg Snelick, who gives you the math background. You've got Coach (Mike) Buchheit, who gives you the drive," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said he likes living in Erie, which is "close to St. Marys, but far enough away."
"We have the lake, so we can go boating on the lake. It's a small hometown city, similar to St. Marys," Wolfe said.
He said he likes the outdoors and hanging out with his friends and family. He is also in the process of refinishing his house.
"I'm halfway through. I just have the kitchen and a bathroom to do," Wolfe said. "It's fun seeing that end product, knowing that you did it yourself and that it's the way you wanted it. And it's always a learning curve, so you get to learn something new every day."
He also enjoys attending Penn State football games.
"It's a blast. I still like going a few times a year," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said he travels to St. Marys at least once a month to visit family. He is the son of Dave and Florence Wolfe of St. Marys and has seven siblings: Dean, Duane (Patty), Dienna Wortman (Rob), Doug, Denise, Darlene Mikesic (Tim), and Debbie, and has 12 nieces and nephews. He said family is what he likes best about St. Marys.
"Family. And the people. St. Marys just has to me a different breed of people," Wolfe said. "St. Marys has the type of people, they're always nice, they're always willing to help someone out. They're good-hearted people."

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